It was just another day on the grind for LeBron James.
It took James all of 36 minutes and 15 seconds to record 32 points on 18 shots, seven rebounds, four assists and three steals, helping to lead the Miami Heat to a 107-97 win over Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers.
Bryant led the Lakers with 28 points, nine assists and four rebounds, but allowed Dwyane Wade to have one of his better games of the season in the form of 30 points, five assists and three steals. The two went at each other for the majority of the night, with LeBron, Ray Allen and Shane Battier also taking turns in defending Bryant. While Kobe was efficient, he did have four turnovers and took the Lakers out of rhythm with a few too many isolation plays in the fourth quarter.
Those isolations were no match for the Heat’s fourth quarter attack, which featured the Lakers coughing up the ball to eight times. Miami managed to not cough up the ball a single time in the fourth and committing only two turnovers in the second half after committing nine in the first. Meanwhile, they forced the Lakers into 14 turnovers, including three from Steve Nash who was ineffective with only two assists.
Dwight Howard got his with 15 points, nine rebounds and two blocks, but didn’t demand for the ball as he should have in the fourth. Bryant’s domination of the ball kept Howard–who was 6-of-9 from the field and had shades of Orlando on offense–from getting any sort of possession in the fourth. When the Lakers did try to force it into Howard, they were met with resistance by a swarm of Heat players meeting the ball before it got to Dwight.
Miami forcing turnovers enabled them to a ten-point advantage in the second half, after struggling on the defensive end in the first half. The Heat allowed 53 points on 49 percent shooting to a Lakers team missing Pau Gasol and Jordan Hill in the first 24 minutes, but locked down in the second half with Bryant and Earl Clark seemingly being the only Laker players to get any sort of scoring accomplished. Although the Lakers ended up shooting 50 percent, they also had ten less field-goal attempts than the Heat.
Speaking of Gasol and Hill, they were missed in a game that had the Heat winning the overall rebounding battle 38-29 and the offensive rebounding battle at 10-5. That’s something you don’t see too often from statistically the league’s worst rebounding team.
Chris Bosh led the Heat with 11 rebounds to go along with 12 points in his first game since February 4th, missing the past two contests against Houston and the Los Angeles Clippers.
The story of the game, however, will focus on LeBron James and how dominant, once again, he appeared against a staunch defender in Metta World Peace. James started out the game converting all five of his shots and ended up hitting seven of his next 13 over the rest of the contest, featuring a slew of drives to the rim, jumpers, and converting 7-of-8 from the foul line.
Wade, however, ended up being the key factor for the Heat. In a stretch from the 9:54 mark to the 7:15 mark of the fourth quarter, Wade scored nine consecutive points for the Heat and helped stretch a slim 80-78 advantage to a comfortable 89-84 margin before LeBron finished off an alley-oop that was started off by an excellent save and pass from Wade.
The Heat found themselves up 93-88 after a pair of Kobe Bryant free throws and it would be the closest the Lakers would get from there. Mario Chalmers (13 points, four rebounds and three assists) hit a jumper on the very next possession, a Steve Nash turnover led to a LeBron James dunk, and a Shane Battier three-pointer provided the dagger as the Heat lead ballooned to ten with 2:42 remaining.
Battier was spectacular, converting three of his five three-point attempts. He was brought in for Ray Allen after missing consecutive wide-open three-pointers that could have put the game on ice a little sooner. Allen was ice cold converting only one of his six field-goal attempts in 21 minutes.
The Heat move to an NBA-best 20 games over .500 with a 34-14 mark. They face the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday, before embarking on a trip to Oklahoma City for their last game before the All-Star break.